When I was first told that exercise might help my mental health, I completely dismissed the idea. Exercise was not for me. I was tall, inflexible, unfit, terrible at sports and couldn’t run for the bus. I was the girl that was picked last for team sports and once got a “PE Detention” for throwing a shot put wrong.
Add into the equation that I often didn’t have the energy to get out of bed and it just didn’t make sense to me. How could they ask me to do that? I went through the therapy, on and off the meds, tried to create a routine and hoped I could find some balance. I went through periods of deep unhappiness, where stress and anxiety took over but I kept going because what other choice was there?
Then in the summer of 2012 I broke. I took time off my MA (never to go back) and returned to the sofa and returned to the medicine. The Olympics were on, and something in me encouraged me off the sofa for a walk around the park. That day I felt a little better. The next day I went a bit further, jogged for short periods. Then each day a little more.
At the weekends I started my own version of a trail run (I say my own version because there was more hiking up hills than running up them.. but a trail walk-with-periods-of-running isn’t quite as glamorous). For the first time I could find clarity in my thoughts and push through that anxiety that built up during the week.
Then I got a job with a gym membership and eventually any disposable income went on a personal trainer once a week (you wouldn’t have guessed this as I still ate whatever I wanted, and still do to this day). A stressful day at work = an evening session in the gym, and it really really worked. No longer was there this constant level of anxiety in my life that threw me into panic everytime I made a small mistake at work. It also allowed me to come off the medication that was affecting my memory and creativity.
I changed jobs, my priorities changed – it’s really easy to forget how bad the bad times are when you’ve been on a good run for a while. I wasn’t sure that I want to invest all this time and money into going to a gym and over time I fell back into my old habits. Then it became easier to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself instead of forcing myself to leave the house and walk. Small events would take control of my worries and keep me awake at night. Major events felt devastating, and made me feel the smallest version of myself. I just stopped looking after myself.
There was the opportunity to join a local Virgin Active at a discounted rate so I went for it. I love to swim (and after much research, not many London gyms offer them!), for the first time in my life I attended classes (having been put off by the trauma of PE at school) and found a new motivation and enjoyment that has kept me going and helped me rebalance my anxiety levels
This is one of the main reasons I started this site, and it’s important to open up about the above so that anyone reading this doesn’t feel like this comes from another clean-eating, exercise-freak babe (which I am far far from being!!) There are lots of wonderful people in my life who have suffering from anxiety or been through tough times who asked my opinion and I can honestly tell them that exercise has been the best management tool for me. It hasn’t been an easy journey; I know from experience how difficult it can feel to try a class for the first time, walk away when you’re not enjoying something or simply get frustrated at finding it hard! It might not fix everything, but maybe grab a friend and drag them to the class you liked the sound of, or find a video on YouTube and try something that might help you feel a little happier inside